The British government is so worried about obesity in relation to covid-19 that they have announced a new strategy to help us resist junk food, including a 9pm ‘watershed’ for TV and online adverts for food high in fat, sugar, and salt; calorie content displayed on restaurant menus for food and alcoholic drinks, and an end to “buy one and get one free” deals on unhealthy food.
Having a BMI of 35 to 40 may increase the risk of death from covid-19 by 40%, while a BMI of over 40 could increase the risk by 90%, says a Public Health England report.
The report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) says: “In light of this the government has announced a new obesity strategy for England, which includes a ban on television and online advertisements for food high in fat, sugar, and salt before 9pm, calorie content displayed on restaurant menus for food and alcoholic drinks, and an end to “buy one and get one free” deals on unhealthy food.”
The report goes on to say: “Public Health England (PHE) has warned that excess fat may affect inflammatory and immune function, which can diminish people’s response to infection and increase vulnerability to severe symptoms of covid-19.”
The British government is clearly rattled by its ongoing failure to get the spread of covid-19 under control and, while the long-awaited vaccines may provide a medium- to long-term answer, we are left asking ourselves “what can we do to minimise our risk factors?”
Well, getting your weight under control is probably the single most effective thing you can do in the short term to protect yourself from covid.
PHE said, “The covid-19 pandemic has brought the health crisis caused by overweight and obesity to the fore. The case for action at scale and over the long term to prevent excess weight and support people living with obesity is strong. Doing more for those groups most affected can help improve health overall and help address some of the inequalities in health.”
Interestingly, Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said “There is a risk that we once again fall into the trap of mainly focusing on individual responsibility.”
His take on the situation is that we can’t simply blame the individual for his or her obesity. We all live in an environment where we are surrounded by fast food, processed food high in sugar and salt, and where ‘quick and easy’ beats ‘fresh and healthy’ in the public psyche.
Goddard issued a stark warning: “We’ve been down this path before, and it doesn’t work. We know the key to success in addressing obesity and other health inequalities lies in shared responsibility between individuals and the state.”
Well, don’t hold your breath, we say. While the government’s latest strategy goes some way towards addressing the problem, the real issue is that the fast food companies and major manufacturers of processed food have no incentive to change.
See the chapter on Fast Food in the 46 Gone book to get a better insight into why we are addicted to the stuff.
Meanwhile, if you want to do something to increase your chances of surviving covid — should you be unlucky enough to get it — look no further than your waistline!